Union Pacific taps surge fleet, more crews amid harsh weather and derailments

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OMAHA, Neb. — Union Pacific has pulled 107 locomotives from its surge fleet and added 300 train and engine crews in response to harsh winter weather and derailments that gummed up its system over the past month.

“I want to make it clear that the setbacks we’ve experienced are not due to the implementation of Unified Plan 2020,” Kenny Rocker, UP’s executive vice president of marketing and sales, wrote in a customer advisory on Monday. “Rather, our service challenges have stemmed from several inclement winter weather incidents, which began to impact operations in late January. The effects of the severe winter weather were also compounded by derailments in the Northern Region.”

Unified Plan 2020 is UP’s new operating plan based on the principles of Precision Scheduled Railroading. It’s currently implementing operational changes in the Pacific Northwest as part of rollout of the third of three initial phases of the new plan.

From Feb. 7 to 9, UP experienced nine incidents across its system, including six on its Northern Region. Harsh winter weather swept across the Midwest several times over the past month, as well, bringing record cold and snowfall that slowed operations. But UP also encountered a washout on the Sunset Route 65 miles east of West Colton, Calif., on Feb. 14.

“These incidents have required us to hold trains until crews restore safe travel through these areas. The impact of doing so is a drop in velocity and a slowdown of our network overall,” Rocker wrote.

“The impacts of winter weather are reflected in the key metrics we review to determine the health of our network,” he added. “Unfortunately, we have seen declines in some of these key performance measures. Despite these setbacks, our key metrics are still better than February of last year. Our car velocity is up 6 percent and terminal dwell is down 17 percent, while our on-time delivery improved by 3 points.”

In addition to adding locomotives and crews, UP diverted traffic away from congested areas, including Proviso Yard in Chicago. The railroad also bypassed intermediate terminals, where possible, and added resources in weather-hit areas such as Chicago and Salt Lake City.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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